How Intel and GE Will Monitor Your Grandma—For Her Own Good

In-home monitors detect behavioral patterns and predict medical emergencies.

Simple hardware combined with behavioral mathematics is helping seniors live free of nursing homes. Intel and General Electric's joint healthcare product, QuietCare, uses infrared sensors, like those used for motion-sensing light switches, to monitor patients as they move throughout their home and alert medical staff to deviant behavior that suggests a medical threat.

Within about 7-10 days, selectively placed infrared devices map the patient's daily pattern of movement throughout their home and remote servers monitor suspicious behavior. For instance, if a patient normally wakes up at 8 a.m. and the system doesn't detect movement by 11am, it's a red flag to send in a nurse, neighbor, or medical authority.

Jim Pursley, general manager of GE and Intel's Care Innovations Independent Living department, takes Fast Company through another typical scenario. Speaking hypothetically, he says, QuietCare "knows that I use the bathroom, on average, twice a night; last night I used the bathroom seven times—highly correlated with the early onset of a [urinary tract infection]," If a UTI can be caught on day two, Grandma can get treatment and the problem may be easily solved. If "I catch it on day seven or eight, I'm lying on the floor. I've got a 104 fever. I've got a fractured hip, and now I'm hospitalized."

Additionally, remote sensors are placed on exits and refrigerator doors to prevent seniors from wondering outside late at night due to dementia or ensure that they're drinking enough water during a dangerous heat wave.

For now, QuietCare is being piloted in senior living residences, where the elderly live within the vicinity of health professionals. In the near future, GE and Intel are hopeful that it will be available in homes so that as the Baby Boomers retire they can retain some of the freedom that defined a generation.

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Intel and GE

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*Update: Our report that QuietCare received FDA approval has been removed. QuietCare does not require FDA approval. The annoucement of FDA approval referred to a different product, the Intel Health Guide.

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